Turkey criticizes France, Germany of arming crisis-hit Greece

Turkey's European Union negotiator faulted on Tuesday France and Germany on arms sales to Greece.

Turkey criticizes France, Germany of arming crisis-hit Greece

Turkey's European Union (EU) negotiator faulted on Tuesday France and Germany on arms sales to Greece.

Turkey's State Minister & chief negotiator for EU talks Egemen Bagis criticized Germany, along with France, for seeking to sell military equipment to Greece while pressing the government in Athens to make drastic public spending cuts as a result of its dire financial crisis.

"To help Greece escape its 'economic disaster' and reduce regional tensions, Ankara would reciprocate if the Greeks froze or cut defense procurement," Bagis told an exclusive interview with the International Herald Tribune.

Bagis said, "one of the reasons for the economic crisis in Greece is because of their attempt to compete with Turkey in terms of defense expenditures."

"Even those countries that are trying to help Greece at this time of difficulty are offering to sell them new military equipment," Bagis said.

Bagis said, "Greece doesn't need new tanks or missiles or submarines or fighter planes, neither does Turkey. It's time to cut military expenditure throughout the world, but especially between Turkey and Greece. Neither Greece nor Turkey needs neither German nor French submarines."

The Greek Foreign Ministry declined to comment on Bagis's comments.

A Greek official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said, "it is good to have positive rhetoric, but it needs to be followed up by positive action."

Under pressure from the European Union, Greece recently approved a deep package of cuts to reduce the budget deficit of 12.7 percent of gross domestic product by 4 percentage points this year. The latest austerity measures include an increase in value-added sales tax, an increase on taxes for fuel, alcohol, cigarette and alcohol and a cut in supplements to wages for civil servants.

According to NATO, in 2008, Greece spent 2.8 percent of G.D.P. on its military, or about €6.9 billion, or around $9.3 billion. Turkey spent 1.8 percent of G.D.P. on its military, or the equivalent of about €11.5 billion, in 2008, according to NATO.

On Cyprus issue, Bagis reiterated that Turkey would not open its ports without a move to end the economic embargo on the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC).

"This would be impossible, he said, "because Turkey is not a sultanate or an emirate — Turkey is a democracy where we have an opposition and a public opinion that matter."

Bagis also dismissed the idea that the Turkey's EU accession process could be plunged into crisis this year over the Ankara Protocol.

The EU member states had decided in 2006 not to open 8 chapters in accession negotiations and suspending the conclusion of the remaining chapters in process on the grounds that Turkey failed to fulfill its responsibilities stemming from the "Additional Protocol" to the Association Agreement which stipulates Turkey to open its ports and airports to Greek Cypriot ships and planes.

"The talks, he said, "are so important that neither Turkey nor the EU can afford to have a wreck," he said.

Bagis also said Turkey's economic strength had made it a very attractive candidate country.


Güncelleme Tarihi: 30 Mart 2010, 16:13